In the 1970’s recognized feminist, Gloria Steinem declared to the world, ‘A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.’ This message, first coined by journalist Anna Dunn was paraphrased from a philosopher’s quote, ‘A man needs God like a fish needs a bicycle.’
The concept that women need not depend on men, and men need not depend on God, resonated with women weary from inequality and gender discrimination. From bra burnings to political protests, American women in the 1970’s sought liberation. They yearned to free themselves from perceived oppressive patriarchal chains and release their pent up roars.
The feminist movement of that day promised change and newfound independence. In the 1972 case of Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Supreme Court gave single individuals access to birth control. For some, this seemed like a light at the end of a tunnel. The pill gave the illusion that women could escape the prison of being barefoot, pregnant and regulated to domestic affairs. When the pill was accepted, the nation was primed for abortion. In 1973 Roe v. Wade was passed, legalizing abortion on demand and forever changing the world in which women live.
It’s been over 40 years since the infamous abortion decision that divided a nation. Where are U.S woman today in terms of progress and their pursuit of rights? On the positive side the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics 2014 report shows a substantial rise in the educational attainment of women ages 25-64 in the labor force. In 1970, 11% of working women held college degrees, in 2012 the number more than tripled to 38%. Working women are also earning more than in the past. In 2012 women’s earnings were 81% of men, compared to 62% in 1979.
Women have made great strides in fields that once shunned them. Bible teacher Joyce Meyer shares that in her early days of ministry some men would walk out while she preached. Joyce is currently one of many female leaders with a worldwide helping millions.
When it comes to career and family life the varying acronyms for SAHM (Stay at Home Mom), WAHM, (Work at Home Mom) WOHM (Work out of Home Mom) and beyond, display the vast acceptable choices available for women today. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, the first Hispanic Supreme Court Judge, Sonia Sotomayor and Haitian American, politician and former mayor Mia Love all hold positions once thought unattainable for women.
Simultaneously as some women progress, others are oppressed in vicious cycles. Sex slavery in America is booming with UNICEF reporting human trafficking cases in all 50 U.S States. The International Labour Organization estimates that women and girls represent the largest share of forced labor victims with 11.4 million trafficked victims.
Birth control sales have expanded to a billion dollar business where certain pills, such as Plan B can now be purchased over the counter by girls of any age. Abortions which were once touted as being ‘safe, legal and rare’ are now commonplace, with 1 in 4 U.S women attaining one by age 30, 99% of which are elective for reasons of convenience.
For women who parent, the National Partnership for Women and Families states 1 in 5 discrimination cases filed by women involve pregnancy discrimination. A 2012 reports from the United Nations Labor Agency states that out of 185 countries that provide cash benefits for women during maternity leave, the U.S is one out of three countries that doesn’t.
Although our nation has countless hard working single moms, 24 million children living in single parent homes is staggering.
Recently actress and U.N Goodwill ambassador Emma Watson gave a speech on feminism. Her speech was well received, possibly because it met a longing many have for a voice to speak to the issues women face today.
It’s clear that we need voices of truth, bathed in compassion. Every woman who cares about the welfare of others has a place in this discussion. Are you bothered by single mothers struggling to extract funds from a father who has abandoned them? Do you believe women, even in their preborn state are worthy of protection? Are you distressed by the online ads urging women to sell their bodies for profit? Do you get overwhelmed by the lack of opportunities that keep women stuck in minimum wage jobs without expectation of growth? Are you dismayed by the factors that cause Black women to have the lowest marriage rates, though many greatly desire it? If you want to work for the progress, welfare and success of womankind, you can be a feminist.
I believe feminism is found in being a friend to all women, regardless of race, size, creed or status. The fight for women’s rights is vast and varied, requiring voices of all kind. Today I implore you to join the fight.